French Riviera of Canada in B.C.

Spirit Ridge basks in small town

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties -

When peo­ple talk about es­cap­ing Al­berta for a warmer, more tem­per­ate cli­mate, they of­ten de­fault to think­ing of places like Phoenix or Mex­ico.

But they can en­joy some­thing of the same desert at­mos­phere with­out hav­ing to dig out their pass­ports.

Nes­tled at the south end of the Okana­gan, the town of Osoyoos has built a rep­u­ta­tion on pro­vid­ing some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for va­ca­tion­ers and home­buy­ers.

Curt Jansen, di­rec­tor of re­sort real es­tate for Spirit Ridge Vine­yard Re­sort and Spa, de­scribes the town as “our French Riviera of Canada.”

It’s home to Spirit Ridge Vine­yard Re­sort and Spa, which of­fers a ho­tel, ma­rina, bistro, restau­rants, a pop­u­lar con­fer­ence cen­tre — and the Spirit Ridge Res­i­den­tial Club, which of­fers frac­tional vacation home own­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We’ll never be a big me­trop­o­lis of a city — and part of the man­date of Osoyoos is not to ever be­come one,” says Jansen.

That’s one of the rea­sons buy­ers from Cal­gary and Ed­mon­ton are at­tracted to buy into Spirit Ridge, he says.

The first two phases to­talling 226 units are nearly sold out in the main re­sort, while a fi­nal phase of 43 units in the Res­i­dence Club re­cently opened for pre-sell­ing, with frac­tions as small as 1/8th avail­able.

Al­though the eco­nomic down­turn in the U.S. re­sulted in “phe­nom­e­nal deals” in Amer­i­can real es­tate in places like Phoenix, hav­ing a Cana­dian op­tion is what’s at­tract­ing buy­ers here, says Ed Ro­manowski, pres­i­dent and CEO of Bell­star Ho­tels and Re­sorts Ltd., which be­gan de­vel­op­ing Spirit Ridge in 2005.

“There are some good bar­gains in Phoenix, but there’s also im­pli­ca­tions of own­er­ship in the U.S. in terms of fi­nanc­ing or not fi­nanc­ing, cost of health care, cross­ing the border and the fact the time you can stay down there is limited for tax rea­sons,” he says.

“Osoyoos of­fers a choice to Cana­di­ans to find a place that is ex­tremely hot dur­ing sum­mer months and warm enough in win­ter to make it bear­able. We be­lieve it’s a great des­ti­na­tion and the mar­ket is prov­ing that out.”

Not only is Osoyoos at­tract­ing buy­ers from across Canada, says Ro­manowski, it’s even at­tract­ing peo­ple look­ing for vacation es­capes from Kelowna.

The op­tion of buy­ing frac­tions is one of Spirit Ridge’s main sell­ing fea­tures, says Jansen.

“The Spirit Ridge Re­sort, it­self, starts at 25-per-cent own­er­ship,” he says. “The 226 units are all cen­trally lo­cated with a beau­ti­ful pool, ca­bana and court­yard area.”

The new Res­i­dence Club phase, with frac­tions start­ing at 1/8th, will be built over­look­ing the sev­enth hole of the Sonora Desert Golf Club, “and it will be tiered into the side of the hill, over­look­ing the en­tire val­ley,” says Jansen.

Once this third phase is com­plete, that’s it, Jansen says Spirit Ridge aims to re­main a “bou­tique-style” re­sort.

Prices, which start in the $70,000 range, have opened up the con­cept of vacation home own­er­ship in Osoyoos to a wider range of peo­ple than the tra­di­tional empty-nester re­tiree, he says.

“It’s driven by that baby boomer mar­ket, but we’re also see­ing younger cou­ples want­ing to stake their claim,” he says. “It’s peo­ple who know what they want — who al­ways wanted to buy here — and they see real value here right now.”

When own­ers aren’t us­ing their prop­erty, they can trade time with own­ers of other prop­er­ties around the world, or Bell­star can rent out the unit for them to va­ca­tion­ers.

You never know who might pay a visit to Osoyoos, says Mayor Stu Wells.

His town re­cently played host to a new film star­ring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wil­son.

“Steve Martin was say­ing how good it was to wake up in a ho­tel look­ing out at the moun­tains and the lake — he was so im­pressed with the beauty of Osoyoos,” says Wells.

With a mod­est area pop­u­la­tion of about 8,000 (in­clud­ing sub­urbs), and a lo­ca­tion near Canada’s only bona-fide desert, the town has man­aged to avoid the in­tense devel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­enced by big­ger Okana­gan hot spots such as Kelowna. That suits Wells just fine. “There’s an en­ergy you can feel here,” he says.

“And it has to do with the ca­chet of small-town Osoyoos. It’s our in­tent and goal to main­tain that small-town, agri­cul­tural ap­proach.”

Don’t bother look­ing for big-box stores here. A 30,000-square-foot cap on com­mer­cial build­ings en­sures the town main­tains a healthy base of smaller busi­nesses.

Osoyoos con­tin­ues to em­brace south­ern B.C.’s bur­geon­ing wine in­dus­try, which Wells says is one of the ma­jor draw­ing cards for Al­ber­tans look­ing to move to Osoyoos or buy recre­ation prop­erty in the area.

“Part of our am­bi­ence is that agri­cul­ture com­po­nent, which in­cludes all the fruit and the wine,” he says.

The town also em­braces its re­la­tion­ship with the Osoyoos In­dian Band, whose lands ad­ja­cent to the town in­clude the award-win­ning Nk’Mip Cel­lars win­ery, Nk’Mip Desert Cul­tural Cen­tre and the Sonora Dunes golf course, says Wells.

Spirit Ridge Vine­yard Re­sort and Spa in Osoyoos, B.C., has ev­ery­thing from spas to restau­rants.

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